My Navy Life and tour on the 'Fighting Hannah"
August 1962 to March 1964

by

Ken "Jake" Jaccard, YN3, USNR, Retired

Quell the Sound

Jake in his 'Glory Days' - Sasebo, Japan '63In 1961, I was a Junior at Herbert Hoover High School, Glendale, California. I didn't know it then, but my simple life was about to change forever!
Itching to make a difference in my boring life, I told my dad, that I wanted to enlist in the Navy. He didn't like that idea, because, I had not yet graduated from High School, and being wise, he knew I should first get my diploma before enlisting in any service.

Like most dads, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps and want the same things he wanted.

Being a frustrated Marine, he wanted me to enlist in the Marine Corps. I used the word 'frustrated' because during WWII, he was about to enlist in the Marines, when his boss pulled the rug out from under him, and had him deferred because their business was war related (defense work), and they could do that. He told me years later, that he was quite upset with his boss for doing that, and didn't speak to him for over 7 months. He worked as a truck driver for Reliance Boiler Works in Milwaukee.

My Pops, Donald Leon JaccardBeing married with two kids shielded him from the draft, yet he wished to enlist in the Marines and serve his country.

At the time, he could only see it from his point of view; but just maybe, if he had gone to war, he may not have returned, and then I would not have been born to join the Navy and I would not have known such a great dad!

I could understand his disappointment for my decision, but I had my own dreams. A dad just wants their sons to want their dreams too. I was glad we had finally come to an understanding. For me, it was the Navy way or no way.

So I met him half way. I decided to remain in school until graduation, if he'd allow me to join the Navy Reserve. That he agreed to, and so for my entire senior year, I attended Drills every Monday night at the USNRTC, Pasadena, California. It was also a chance for me to have the car every Monday night .

Today, I still am glad for my decision to join the Navy because I am very proud of my Naval service. Even if I didn't become a Marine, being in the Navy, is a very Special thing; one doesn't have to be a Marine to have pride and honor! Heck, there wouldn't even be a Marine Corps without the Navy! But I love the Marines too and always will. I guess there is a part of my dad still alive and well inside of me!

Although I loved my father, and always wanted to please him, I had to do what I felt I had to do, and follow my own dream, not his.

When the Vietnam war broke out in 1964, my dad finally admitted to me, that I had made the right decision of not going into the Marine Corps. I guess all the 'Guts and Glory' of military life changed for him too, as it did for all of us. The "John Wayne" war image no longer was the collective war image of America. The News changed that image forever.

Having my dad's approval of my own Service choice, sure felt good, for he was never easy at giving out kudos, but knowing he finally respected my choice, and told me so.made me feel like a man and had finally come into my own.

However, those graphic pictures on TV also wounded me. They are pictures I'll never forget. Being a Vietnam veteran goes much deeper than being in country, it also means suffering along side the survivors, which those, who came back to the 'world' are. Many of "us" are 'walking wounded' whether we served in country Vietnam or not. This is why we have such a poignant brotherhood, which I am proud to be part of.

Guilt and Vietnam

Perhaps I did feel some guilt for resisting my dad's dream for me. But there is a much deeper Guilt in this story: That petty guilt was nothing compared to the guilt that came later, during the Vietnam War. Read my poem, "Survivor's Guilt" at my Vietnam Poetry Site - (The Window will load on top of this one; to return here, close that window).

When the Vietnam War broke out in all it's fury in 1964, and being in the Service, I began to be concerned about all the "River Rats", Navy Corpsmen, soldiers and Marines in Vietnam, who were putting their lives on the line for all of us. I felt guilty for not standing along side them through their ordeals, their wounding and dying, which only recently, I have been able to reconcile, but the fact remains, I suffered through 32 years of survivor's Guilt! I wrote a poem, Making Sense of it All which tells all what to do with it. If you go there, make sure you return here by using the BACK button.

On that subject, some fellow Hancock squids re-educated me, for our 'then' passive involvement in Vietnam became more active when the ship was called off of R & R liberty in Hong Kong in November of 1963, and sent into the Gulf of Tonkin, on Emergency Orders, at full Battle readiness, during the unrest taking place there that month (the same month Kennedy was assassinated).

After giving that situation more scrutiny, some guilt did dissipate, when I discovered that we were onloading nuclear weapons and arming ourselves to the hilt. Our "peacetime Navy life" was instantly changed by orders coming down from CincPac, knowing that all hell could break loose at any moment.

Those days were scary days. Losing a President (I speak of this later) was a very difficult time to get through for the ship and the Nation, and then hearing that President Diem also was assassinated in Saigon, instantly changed the picture and balance of Power in Southeast Asia. America's presence in Vietnam also changed, from an "Advisory" role to an Active role, and we all know how 'active' that role became. Little did any American know the passage we were then taking from our national innocence in those early days.

Back to my earlier life and Navy beginnings...

The Navy Reserve helped me grow to be the man my dad hoped for, and adjust to the military lifestyle, while I was yet a young man, and to understand more perfectly the Military Mission. While I might have rejected my dad's dream for me, I still wanted to please him, as any good father's son does. He was a good man, and taught me so much, specially about Faith in God. It was this Faith in God that got me through many of life's difficulties.

Joining the Navy, for me, In the beginning, may have appeared all Glory, but the gravity of this decision and the Purpose of the Military soon became evident to me, as I got deeper involved in Naval Training, Military Life and Protocol.

It may have been ‘grave’, but I also found it exciting, fun and interesting. The thought that I could possibly be killed in the Military didn't quite sink in, as the Vietnam War was yet future, and most of the political strife in Southeast Asia was ‘over there’ and did not yet affect American thinking.

At that time, the problems in Vietnam were considered 'their problem' by most of the populace and the gravity of the situation 'over there' was only known in very secret circles. The truth is, that we had been involved over there, as far back as 1945, and later, in 1956, when the first acknowledged casualty took place, and still later, in 1959 when Eisenhower had committed our troops as "advisors", to assist in the French's hold on Southeast Asia. But most people in the country went about their lives like they were living in Shangri La. I am sure that this same kind of thinking and attitude of the masses prevailed in the country when Hitler was building up his Third Reich in the middle to late '30's.


In 1959, I was only 16 and adjusting to the ‘changes’ that come about a young man in the crisis’ of mid-adolescence. What kid, at that age, would even be slightly conscience of an impending political disaster about to happen in a small, mostly unknown obscure country in southeast Asia known as Vietnam? I know I surely wasn't.

In 1962, Graduation from High School came faster than I had thought it would, and I found myself in Ready Status of the Naval Reserve (active duty), awaiting orders to depart. My Active Duty Date was set for August 27, 1962.

I was getting nervous and anxious about Active Duty. My friend, Steven Moncur whom I had enlisted with and met while attending Drills that senior year, was scheduled to depart on June 27, 1962. He and I had become buddies, and since neither of us were anxious to go it alone, we decided that I should move up my Active Duty Date to June 27, and the two of us could go active together on our own "Buddy Program" which we did.

Jake and his buddy Steve, wait in transit, at NAS Alameda for Hancock

(you can see some pictures of this time in my personal gallery)

We had received orders to report to the Naval Air Station in Long Beach, California on that date. We arrived early and were assigned quarters, and transient duties. This was not a permanent duty station, but only a place we were held in transit, until we received our permanent duty assignment.

My Navy buddy, Steve Moncur
Steven D. Moncur
Passon

Steve and I had both requested sea duty, and we both wanted to experience life aboard an Aircraft Carrier. This sort of duty always intrigued me, and I am sure, it did Steve as well. We were both granted our wish, and both of us were ordered to the USS Hancock (CVA-19), an attack aircraft carrier of the Ticonderoga Class (formerly Essex Class).

She was a World War II fighting lady, commissioned on January 25, 1944, a year after I was born. She had Five Battle stars, Two Navy Unit Commendations.

She was later to receive Five more Battle stars and one Navy Unit Commendation for operations off the coast of South Vietnam, during that conflict, and other numerous War ribbons and awards. I was proud to serve on her, and to be a part of ship's company. See Ship Specs Page for a rundown on these Awards.

The Hancock was not in port at the time, and was deployed to the Western Pacific, with the 7th Fleet (WestPac) and so both of us were transferred to her home port, at the United States Naval Air Station, Alameda, California, awaiting her return to the States. This was in July of 1962. She arrived ConUS in August, when we came aboard.

We had spent about three months waiting for her to return at both Naval bases (NAS Long Beach and NAS Alameda). I don't know why they didn't transfer us to the ship while it was deployed, but sometimes you don't ask questions why the Navy does things. Looking back, we had taken on new crew during deployment to WestPac, and why they didn't send us out to join the ship is an enigma to me to this day. I would really have enjoyed coming aboard on the COD (Carrier On-board Delivery). (See another COD)

! Well, as most 'Squids' know, there is a standard accepted saying in the Navy, "There's the Right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way" of doing things. This lesson was learned very early in my Naval career, which always got a laugh out of me .

Aboard the Hancock Finally

On August 20, 1962, the ship docked in Alameda, and we walked up the After Brow of Hancock for the very first time. The ship was massive! I had no idea that she would be so huge! Who knew in those early days how huge the future 'Super Carriers' would be?

After checking out the huge 3 sectioned Hangar Bay, a very large, open area the entire length of the ship, we all mustered there, together. Each company of new men were assigned to different divisions on ship. Steve was assigned to the Deck Force, and I was assigned to the "X" Division - which was the Administrative Division. I breathed a sigh of relief, because I didn't want to go to the deck force. That is where most new sailors go until it can be determined where they are best suited. My suitability was predetermined, by taking the U.S. Military Basic Battery Test, as all new recruits do. I had a high verbal, and clerical score, and could use the typewriter, and type well, so that was the determining factor in where I was to spend the next two years of my active duty on Hancock. Steve eventually was reassigned to Navigation Department - "N" Division - and became a Quartermaster, and did well for himself there. I was happy to see my old friend get out of the Deck Force, and better utilized in "N" Division, as he had a good head on his shoulders, and the Navy would do better by using him in that capacity.

Shipboard life was strange in the beginning, but also exciting. I remember the first time the ship moved, on August 23, 1962, when we steamed from NAS Alameda, across the San Francisco Bay to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point. It was fun, but not a long enough voyage for what I had prepared my mind for in those early days. Rather, it was quite disappointing, for we would spend the greater part of six months in dry dock! Sleep was hard to get with all the noise, not to mention all the dust which was everywhere. Life actually became boring for me during this time. We did not move to temporary barracks during Hancock’s refitting, but continued to live on ship the entire time in dry dock. I craved the open sea, and excitement, as we all did, but in order for the Hannah to keep up with the constant changes in technology, and remain with the Active Fleet, she had to occasionally endure these periods of dry dock and refitting. She was, at that time, one of the oldest active Aircraft Carriers afloat, and had been with the fleet over 18 years. Her total length of service, including mothball time, before she was decommissioned, was over 32 years!

~

While waiting for the experience of open sea, I worked for three months as a "Compartment Cleaner" and that was all I did for duty. The rest of my time, I lay on my "rack" and wrote letters home, and worked out my ‘home sickness, which every young sailor knows about.

Sometime after my three months as compartment cleaner had passed, and being advanced in rank from Seaman Apprentice to Seaman, I finally was assigned to where I would spend the rest of my time onboard ship: The Captain's Office, working as a non-rated "Yeoman Striker", which meant, working at becoming a Yeoman, Third class Petty Officer. A Yeoman, in the Navy is an Office Clerk, or as we called them, a "Feather Merchant". This old term was given us, due to our Rating symbol of two crossed feather quills.

Working in the Captain's Office was challenging and I began to truly enjoy my duty aboard ship and felt a part of the "action" instead of feeling like a ship born housekeeper.

On November 28, 1962, our then Commanding Officer, Captain P.K. Blesh was relieved of his command by Captain T.D. Harris in ceremonies, aboard the carrier. It was my first of two shipboard Change of Command Ceremonies that I would experience, and was very impressive. Seeing all the ship's company assembled on the flight deck in their Dress Blues, gave me "goose bumps", knowing I was a part of this great Naval Tradition and being a crew member of the USS Hancock (CVA-19), the "Fighting Hannah", made me swell with great pride. I had the privilege of serving under three Commanding Officers:

Capt P. K. Blesh December 1961 to November 1962
Capt. T. D. Harris November 1962 to December 1963
Capt. A. J. Brassfield December 1963 to December 1964


Finally we go to Sea

After completion of our six month stay in dry dock at Hunters Point, San Francisco Naval Shipyard, sometime in February, 1963, we enjoyed our 'Shakedown Cruise' to the Hawaiian Islands, my first cruise on the Hancock. It was great!! Fantastic!! The excitement was awesome and made the long wait in dry dock worth it. The Hawaiian Islands were everything I had imagined them to be and more! What a fantastic experience that was and a wonderful beginning to what would become the first of many succeeding memory makers in the future of my Naval Career..

Later on, we joined the Fleet, along the California coast of the United States, involved in air operations, and extensive training, in preparation for Fleet Readiness for our next WestPac deployment, which was scheduled in June.

It was during this time, that I was sent TAD (Temporary Additional Duty for Training) for two weeks, to the U.S. Naval ABC Warfare School, in San Diego, California. Here, I learned all about the different kinds of weaponry used in these three types of Warfare. I learned how dangerous Warfare really is, and what it can do to personnel, and ships. My ideas and concepts of being a member of the Naval Surface Forces greatly changed during this time. Where it was true, you could see the world by joining the Navy, it now occurred to me that this was very serious business we were engaged in. Part of a young man's Rights of Passage as a sailor and a man.

Me and the OBA

Sometime later, after returning from ABC Warfare School, and getting back into the routine of being back on ship, I again was sent TAD; this time, for two weeks at the U.S. Naval Fire fighting School at Treasure Island, in the San Francisco Bay area.

Here I learned about the three classes of fires, and their immediate dangers. Here, also, I learned the correct way of fighting these fires and learning how to work in harmony with a crew of men to get the fires out. A fire is the ship's worse enemy! More lives have been lost on naval ships from fires than any other kind of danger!

I learned the proper use of the OBA, (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) during this time, as well. These strap-on re-breathers, have saved many sailors’ lives during fires aboard ships and are used when assisting in shoring up damaged bulkheads and hulls which received damage from torpedoes and bombs, when often, compartments fill up with deadly fumes and smoke. The OBA is the shipboard repair party's best friend. This part of Fire Fighting training was the most intense and frightening, as one has to face many of his fears, such as fear of fire, claustrophobia, heat, lack of sight and air to breath. If one is claustrophobic, this part of training is the most fearful and terrifying! I know, because I once suffered from this phobia.

This section of Fire fighting training took us to a simulated ship's hull which was 3 decks high, or about 60 feet. It is constructed to simulate a ships hull and interior. It has hatches, ladders (shipboard stairways), guy lines, and strewn with many obstacles.

Just before beginning of this class, they ignite an oil fire in the basement of this building. The entire structure fills up with billowing black, sooty smoke. Once the smoke has filled the building and is billowing out of the top hatches, they make you, one-by-one, strap on your OBA unit, and get ready to climb up a ladder on the side of the building. It's a challenge in itself; specially for those who have problems with height. But just before you are about to ascend the ladder, you are to charge your OBA unit by pulling a ring on the canister, and then start your climb up the ladder. From that time onward till you come out of the building on the ground floor hatchway, you will be relying on your own re-breathed air, which you have expired out into the OBA unit. The unit, when functioning properly will service normal expirations well, but if you panic or begin to breath too quickly, the unit will not work correctly and you will be struggling for air.

Now once the unit is in place, and you are climbing up the ladder, the fear begins to mount in your mind. You see the ugly black smoke coming out of the building, and you know that if you have any kind of trouble inside, you will more than likely die before they can rescue you, so the fear mounts up in your head terribly.

So once you get to the top of the building, you are told by instructors, to grab a hold of the guy lines, and NEVER let go, and follow the lines down the ladders, through the passageways, and continue down the next ladder, and so forth, all the time, knocking into obstacles along the way, which are there to disorientate you. But you must NEVER let go of the line, or at least know how to find it, if you do.

Under normal conditions, you will try to manage your panic and fear enough, to keep the air flowing properly in the unit. But if you suffer from claustrophobia, the panic is much too difficult to bear.

Not all sailors that day made it up the first ladder, but were instructed to come back down. One such sailor was myself. There was no way I was going up that ladder. I panicked and I couldn't get my air. I think, had they not pulled me off that ladder, I would have died of heart failure, so great was the panic and fear that was inside of me.

I was one of few sailors that day that felt terribly embarrassed and shamed, that I didn't complete that part of my training.. there's a funny ending to this story, however, in that, once back onboard ship, I was eventually assigned to a Repair Party, as an OBA man on a Repair Party in my own Berthing Compartment.

A typical Berthing compartment on the Hannah (This one was taken from the USS Hornet, complements of Dennis F. Milliken, who has contributed so much to this site

The word 'claustrophobia' really takes on it's true meaning when they set material 'condition Zebra' which is "Air-tight Integrity", when all hatchways are sealed. If you do suffer from this psychological phobia, the nausea really wells up in you! I eventually overcame my fears of the OBA, through constant use and drills, but the memory of that Class on Treasure Island was forever burned into my memory as one of the most fearful times in my life. But Sailors and Soldiers must learn to deal with their fears, and in the right circumstances, they will, in most cases, come through and do the right thing. That's what we're there for. That's what we must do if we and our Unit are to survive. The key to survival in the Military is Training. That's why we constantly train. There is no end to it and never will be.

Shipboard Duties and Life

Everyone onboard was assigned a duty station and a duty section. Duty sections rotated every four days, stateside, and every three days, when deployed. I spent my Duty Station time in the Captain’s Office, helping Officers with their Service Records, or answering the phone. I wrote all my letters and some poetry during this time. What duty! The kind of duty most others would envy on ship! My buddy Steve use to tease me by saying, "you got skater's duty because you could type!." I was glad he eventually went to Navigation, for then, he laid off of me!!

On top of standing Rotating duty stations, you were also called to stand certain watches. I stood several types of watches on a regular basis. At sea, I would stand a Fog-Foam Operator's Fire watch, which was below the steam catapults - a very hot and uncomfortable watch, to say the least!!

Fog-Foam Station where I stood many a watch
Picture courtesy of the "XO" -
Dennis F. Milliken
'grabbed' from his visit to the USS Hornet CV-16 Museum at old NAS, Alameda, California

Fog-Foam Station under the Cats

In case of a flight deck fire, it would be my duty to empty big cans of foam into the mixing unit, which mixed the ‘goo’ (made up of animal fat and some unknown other constituents - a very smelly concoction!) with sea water, used in fighting fires. This mixture, when sprayed out of hoses equipped with special nozzles, turned into a thick foam, which, in most cases, would extinguish flight deck class "B" fires (Oil and/or aviation gas fires).

Another watch which I grew to enjoy a great deal, was standing watch as a "Phone Talker" behind the Captain’s chair on the Bridge, during Flight Quarters.

The Bridge where I stood many-a-watch (just behind the Captain's Chair pictured) - this actually is the Bridge
of the USS Hornet now a museum at NAS, Alameda - Pier #3 Courtesy of Dennis Milliken, QM3, USN - Ret

The Bridge where I stood many-a-watch

It was my duty to communicate to various other stations along the circuit, which included 'Pri-Fly', 'Flight Ops' (Flight Operations Office), CIC (Combat Information Center, and DCC (Damage Control Central). If the Captain requested the name of a certain pilot, it was my duty to get this information from Flight Ops. It's was also amazing to me, how much chitter-chatter was passed along that line, too! It was like talking on a party-line in Mayberry !

This Watch was very exciting to me, because I was right there on the Bridge, involved with all the activity taking place in the Command Center of the ship, where I also had a "Birds Eye View" of the planes being launched off Hancock’s Flight Deck, as well as the approaching planes coming in for Carrier Landings. This Watch was when I really felt I was a part of the Navy and more particularly, Naval Air. A very exciting watch. You could tell everyone else was equally as excited, for the air on the bridge was full of pheromones. If you haven't ever experienced being on the Bridge, the only experience that comes close to it, in regards to the olfactory sense, is in an Game Arcade. The same kind of excitement puts those same kind of pheromones in the air. No, not body odors per sé, but Adrenaline pheromone expired through the skin! I will never forget how the bridge smelled!

I participated in many Air Operation watches behind the Captain. It was awesome! I think I enjoyed this experience much better than sitting at my desk, typing Officer's Fitness Reports and TAD orders for other officers. Up there, on the Bridge, was the real Navy, as far as I was concerned.

Captain T. D. Harris was an outstanding Naval Officer, and commanded everyone's respect, as he did mine, and I felt secure having this man in Command. He knew his stuff, and always got the job done and that's why we were there, in Southeast Asian waters: To get the job done!

The Bridge, on an aircraft carrier is located several decks above the flight deck, on the "Island Structure" of the ship (the part that stands to the right side of the ship, above the flight deck). It gives you a large panoramic view of the action below. One can watch the control area of the ship's movement here, where the Captain or Officer of the Deck, is in control of the ship. Here also is the Quartermaster and/or Helmsman, who has the Helm of the ship and the lives of 3000 men in his hands.

All Naval Warships have alternate control stations, known as "Secondary Con". The Hancock had, I believe, 5 of them, situated at various strategic positions around ship. This was for emergency situations. If, during battle, the island structure was hit by enemy fire, or, like the ship was hit, during World War II, by kamikaze suicide attacks by the Japanese, the ship would still be controllable.

Although, it was very exciting to be up there, the thought did occur to me that it wouldn't be so much fun if we were under such attack, as the ship was in World War II. But every Sailor, Marine, Pilot, or Soldier knows about the risks long before they are at their duty stations. We all knew that it wasn't a game we were playing. Even when they termed it, "War Games," we still knew the risks and dangers that came with being in the armed forces of the United States. I have often thought over the succeeding years, how all Warships are actually at War, all the time, for all War games are under War conditions and many lives are in danger during these times, and sometimes lives are lost - these are what I term, "Our Unsung Heroes!"

~

Life was not always duty on a Naval Fighting Ship. There was also time to relax, read, write letters and when in port, going on "Liberty" or "going over" which meant leaving ship and having some fun ashore. Sometimes, I would go "over" and see a movie in San Francisco with a friend or two, or at other times, go alone. There were times when I needed to be alone. The ship's company, or complement, while NOT deployed, was around 2000 men as opposed to 3000 men when deployed. With all those bodies everywhere, it was very hard to find peaceful quiet, or just some solitude, or privacy, which my psyche needed. So often, when in port, I'd go to see a movie, or to parks or museums, etc., which satisfied this need to be alone. When at sea, the Duty Station in the Office was my time to be alone, though, sometimes others of the office crew would come up and write letters or listen to music on tape recorders we purchased at the PX. I considered myself lucky to have this time and place on duty nights, as most of the other sailors in Hancock had no such luxury. Their place of refuge was either their racks, the fantail, or some other fairly quiet place.

WestPac '63 Begins and Hannah's O.R.I.

On June 7, 1963, we shipped out to Hawaii, for our Western Pacific tour. When we arrived there, we were involved in a three week training period, which all ships must go through before they can join the Seventh Fleet in Southeast Asian waters. This training was called O.R.I. or Operations Readiness Inspection, which determined our readiness to join the Seventh Fleet. It was three weeks of constant training for 24 hours a day. Very tedious and often disturbing. Sometimes we'd be awakened at 0300 hours (Three o'clock in the morning), to "General Quarters" and "Man Overboard" drills.

I stood many fire watches while we were involved in air operations. It gets very hot under those catapults! Especially, when we were deployed in the tropics, as we were.

~

Some other inconveniences one would have to suffer through, were 'Seaman Showers' and 'work details' -

"Seaman Showers" were the only showers we could have during deployment. An Aircraft Carrier needs all the Fresh Water they can make - from the Water Evaporators - for the use of the Steam Catapults; therefore if you want to take a shower, it's dowse yourself with Sea Water, soap down, and then a brief (very brief) dowsing of fresh water to rinse off.

"Work Details" - everyone onboard ship had to endure them. In the beginning, it was compartment cleaning, later, Mess Duty, and often, onloading supplies, which included food, fuel, Av-Gas and ordnance, etc. I worked several Weapons onloading work parties, and I found out, through this sort of hard work, what kind of firepower an aircraft carrier possesses, from rockets, 5" gun projectiles, to 500 and 1000 pound bombs to nuclear weapons.. we had it all! And we all had to chip in and work hard to stow this ordnance in the magazines provided for their safe storage. We worked long hours into the nights on such work details. So not all seaboard life is a 'piece of cake' - there is also lots of hard hard work involved also.. If you are thinking of joining the Navy because it's an easy way out, get that idea out of your head now! For such is not the case. Those Airedales who worked the Flight Deck those 12 Hour shifts when the Hannah was on line in Vietnam Waters, can tell you how hard the work was!

Meals on Hancock

ORI training was tough, but being in the Islands, made the three week stay there, worth it. Especially during "Mess" or "Chow", for we enjoyed the foods of the islands while there, which included wonderful Fruit dishes.

Talking about food: The food onboard Hancock really did amaze me! It actually was very good! I expected that it would be less than satisfactory, with so many men to feed, but actually, it was very tasty and I even got used to the powdered eggs and milk. The milk was served icy cold, and I grew to like it quite a lot. Even today, after 39 years have passed, I still drink powdered milk. Think of all the fat I have missed out on! This is probably why I am still here today! (Chuckle)... and my "mid-drift bulge" is caused from being happy all the time - ho ho - not from drinking whole milk (sorry American Dairy Association members).

There was, on the menu, something we Hancock sailors called "Hancock Steak" - I am sure most of you who served in Hannah, know what I am talking about - Roast Beef, which we enjoyed quite often, and it too, was quite tasty and delicious. Dubbed "Hancock Steak" because we had it so often.

I never complained much about the food, except, I didn't much like the Pork Steak. It rarely was tender, often bad tasting - more like 'salt pork' than pork steak, and so I would take something else on the menu instead of it.

The crew often complained about having "HC" - (I cant tell you what that means because in the Navy we often gave things names that would offend the general public but most old Sailors would know it's meaning) but is more commonly known as "Cold Cuts". We had this more often than any other meal, and while deployed in the South China Sea, where it was very hot and humid, these cool meals were more appreciated anyway.

Breakfast often included "SOS" - and really was quite good. I heard a lot complain about it, but Chipped Beef over toast in white sauce was good to me. Head of line privilege? Yup, though, if you dared to do it, you would get lots of evil stares and scowls from those in line, who might have been waiting 2 hours for their first chow.

Life was good on the Hannah! One thing has stuck in my mind all these years about the food aboard Hancock. It was good. We even enjoyed (enjoyed?) Frog Legs from time to time! Can you imagine feeding a Ships complement of over 3000 men, those tiny frog legs? Just think of all the many thousands of little frogs who gave up their lives in support of Freedom on the High Seas! Of course, the thought sent revulsion through me. I never did ‘partake’ of them - I left them for the more stout of heart! They also got my liver .



No such thing as going away hungry
on he Hannah!

Steaks? Of course! We had delicious steaks from time to time! And you could order them the way you liked them (same as eggs) and the cooks generally tried to give you what you ordered - if you were so lucky - but no matter if my steak was over done, I still enjoyed it, and the memory of such good food has remained in my mind all these many years after I ended my Naval career. Really, being single now, I ate a lot better back then than I do now, and I actually find myself craving those meals, along with youth and those times.

We set course for the South China Sea

After completing ORI inspection with flying colors, Hancock's 3000-man crew, including the embarked squadrons of CAG-21 (Carrier Air Group 21), set sail on June 20, 1963, and steamed for Subic Bay, Philippines where on June 24, 1963, she joined the Seventh Fleet, in the South China Sea, and took her place as 'Southern Carrier'.

I was your normal seaman, and sailor, beginning to like life aboard a very Ready Aircraft Carrier and thus began my tour of duty with the Seventh Fleet, ported at Cubi Point Naval Air Station, Subic Bay, Philippines. A Place we all grew to like - and called affectionately, "The P.I." - to those who spent their Liberty (and all their MPC's in Olongapo, they remember the P.I. quite well along with good old "San Magoo" Beer!

During the next two months, the Hancock was engaged in air operations and other training, and life aboard the "Southern Carrier", as Hancock was designated, was at most times, interesting and fascinating, and at other times, boring and uneventful.

Hancock Casualties

During this time of training, we had several accidents aboard the ship which proved that in peace time or War, there is the constant risk of accidents and loss of life. The Hancock's '63 Cruise was no exception. We lost several pilots from Air Group 21, due to equipment failures or rough sea operations. One such accident occurred when we were trapping incoming aircraft. An A4 pilot, CO of his Squadron, whose Call Sign was "Double Nuts" because his aircraft Number was "00", came in and "was in the groove" (committed his aircraft for landing), while the ship was tossing in rough seas. The L.S.O (Landing Ship Officer) waved this pilot off, but he had cut power too soon, and the fantail heaved up, at the wrong time, and the plane crashed into the "round down" or fantail of the ship (the rear portion just below the flight deck).

It was our first casualty on that cruise but would not be the last. We had an at-sea burial for this unfortunate pilot, which was my first experience with this solemn ceremony - I hoped it would be my last - but such would not be the case!

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A burial at Sea of Lt. Felton from VFP-63 who crashed on the fantail during our ORI in Hawaii - WestPac1963


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The ceremony (left), with full honors, was held with ship's company, mustered at attention, on the Flight Deck in Full Dress, to witness the ceremony, as was requested by the unfortunate pilot's next of kin. This pilot's name, which I have now forgotten, became the first of many casualties on the Flight Deck that Cruise; all brave men who gave their lives under the heavy burden of Peace Keeping. There would be many others to do the same the next ten years, during our involvement in the War in Vietnam. See the KIAs and MIAs list on this site.

Note: In April of 2006, I was once more trying to locate this pilot's name. A friend of CAPT Tom Wimberly of the Hancock Association, did some sleuthing on the Skyhawk Association's Website and discovered this bit of information which does or does not give final confirmation on the name of our missing Pilot, but is something to consider seriously: "The Skyhawk Association (http://www.skyhawk.org) shows no losses from Hanna in 1963. However, CO, VA-216 (CDR J.R. Anderson) was replaced seven weeks early, and only five weeks before the end of the '63 cruise." - is it possible that the records of the Skyhawk Association are erroneous or an oversight occurred?
- Is CDR J.R. Anderson our MIA? I am still hopeful that someone will step forward with confirmation on the pilot who was lost, and if YOU do know the facts,
please Sound Off. - Jake

Follow-up on the above note: The reason why Captain Wimberly and myself did not come up with the name of the pilot, was because our pilot and the casualty took place from VFP-63, a Photo Recon Squadron, doing Carrier Qualifications aboard Hancock while we were on ORI, WestPac '63. VFP-63 eventually came aboard as a part of CAG-21 soon thereafter. The name of our pilot was thought to be Lt Donald John Meyer and for whom, the Burial at Sea took place after that casualty, but a shipmate of Jake's sent him a news clipping that has finally put this mystery to bed. You can read more about this accident by going to our Post-Recommissioning Casualty Page and going down to the 1963 WestPac section.

On another occasion, during Flight Quarters, one of our Pilots crashed and burned on the Flight Deck and was killed outright. This Pilot also goes unnamed and forgotten by all save his family and friends. If you also have information on this crash/casuality, please contact me ASAP!

Note: I believe we have reconciled the name of this pilot as well and once again, you can go to our Post-Recommissioning Casualty Page and going down to the 1963 WestPac section.

During that 7 month cruise to the Western Pacific, the Hancock lost two (2) pilots and five (5) crew members, due to dumb mistakes, accidents and equipment failures. So to think 'War Games' are games, is foolishness by any shake of the imagination. Our Navy is at constant readiness and to get there, many lives are lost every year. These are casualties no one ever hears about on the nightly news on Television, yet happens every day of the year, somewhere. There should be a Memorial for just these casualties, and is why I have often felt there should be a Memorial in Washington, D.C. to commemorate those who made the Supreme Sacrifice in peace time. I know, that the United States Navy Memorial in Washington DC, along with all the other Naval Memorials at the National Cemeteries around the country and in Hawaii at the U.S.S. ARIZONA Memorial and Hawaii's Punch Bowl, have remembered those who lost their lives while serving on our oceans, in war time, but many Peace Time sailors never come home. That's a cold hard fact!

It occurred to me that it doesn't matter if we are involved in a War or not, all servicemen who put on the uniform, are all War Veterans, because we all put our lives in harms way to ensure the Freedom all Americans have come to enjoy and cherish. Many die every year in accidents and "misadventures" during training and drills. These losses are just as important to us as are the sacrifices made during War time and should be just as important to us as it has been when we commemorate the lives lost in Combat conditions in war. You can read my Tribute to those we lost on WestPac Cruise '63 at the Website Dedication Page.

There were several such casualties that remain in my mind these past 36 years since I left active duty in 1964. Both were flight deck non-pilot casualties....

One Deck Hand accidentally backed his Jeep (a 3-wheel Jeep, used to cart planes around the deck) right off the flight deck into the sea. Although we were at 'man overboard' for over three hours, doing hard-right-rudder, we never did recover this lost Sailor. His name remains unknown to me, and is not mentioned in our LOG-19, '63 Cruise Book. I often wondered why they did not publish the names of our fallen comrades in the Cruise Book, for although, I did not know any of these casualties, they were still 'losses' which we all bore, for we were a Crew, and all needed to be remembered and honored for their sacrifices.

Another casualty took place not long after this, when another deck hand backed his jeep into the spinning propeller of an A1. There is no need to write about the result of this accident. Another got sucked into an air intake of one of our jets.

Accidents do happen on a daily basis with our Armed Forces; it's a fact of life, but every time it does occur, it is always a sad day for all of us, for we all have lost a comrade together.

Hannah and her Crew prepare for War

General Quarters, Flight Operations and other drills took on a new meaning when we knew that at any moment, the drills cold become real warfare and we could be sending in armed sorties to positions called in by our land forces for air strikes on enemy positions. This never became a full blown reality for myself and the Hancock's crew during the ’63 WestPac Cruise, those early days of the Vietnam War but Hancock’s "Peacetime Status" changed drastically, with WestPac Cruise '64. From this Cruise until Operations Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind, and wars end, in 1975, Hannah and her men would know battle conditions, as the Ship became fully involved in the War. With full involvement, came also the sad toll of Hancock Pilot casualties as we became a participant in the War.

In 1965, President Johnson committed US Troops in South Vietnam, there to help the people of this small country, in stopping the communist insurgency and aggression from the Communist North. From then on, until the end of the war, Escalation was the order of the day, and many men died, both on land and on the sea.

Details of our WestPac Cruise '63

The Hancock steamed north in early September '63, after representing "Ready Power for Peace" off the coast of trouble-filled South Vietnam, in order to take part in a joint-forces maneuver, termed "Operation Nightmare". This event took place over South Korea September 11 through 13, 1963 with all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces joining with the South Korean Air Force for development of improved air-ground support tactics. This operation qualified all aboard to wear the Armed Forces Expeditionary Ribbon...

Armed Forces Expeditionary Ribbon

On October 16, our C.O., Captain T. D. Harris became the third Commanding Officer in the more than twenty year history of Essex-Class carriers to have ten thousand arrested landings recorded during one tour of duty. On that date, Hancock recorded it's 62,157th arrested landing since her angle deck was added in 1956, when Lt. William N. Leslie, VA-212, of CAG-21, landed his A4B Skyhawk.

On November 2, 1963, while enjoying a 5 day Port of Call visit to Honk Kong for R & R, Hancock received emergency orders to sail south. She weighed anchor at 0830, and steamed into the South China Sea toward the crisis-plagued nation of South Vietnam. Steaming off the Vietnam coast, in the Tonkin Gulf.

We were designated "Southern Carrier" which put us in the South China Sea, and in close proximity to the Gulf of Tonkin, and adjacent to the Republic of Vietnam. We were in these turbid waters during the revolt that toppled the Diem Regime in Vietnam. The 45,000 ton carrier once again displayed her "Ready Power for Peace" and was on the alert to protect U.S. Civilians and military personnel who might be affected by the coup d'etat.

"Our Captain is fallen, Cold and Dead"

It was at this time on November 23, 1963 and somewhere in the Tonkin Gulf off Vietnam, that we received word from the states, that President Kennedy has been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The entire ship went into the most depressed state of darkened gloom. I have never seen the mists of gloom so thick as I did, those next few days, while we steamed in the Gulf. One seldom heard any talk at all during this time, for President Kennedy was our Commander-in-Chief, and our 'Captain', much loved by us all, and our 'Captain' was 'fallen, cold and dead.."

It didn't occur to me at that time, that those things taking place in Vietnam were precipitating one of the longest and most tragic Wars in American History, with casualties exceeding 58,000 lives lost, and we were some of the first to be involved in this conflict. It took the Nation nearly 33 years to accept the fact that all of us "early birds" were also Vietnam War Veterans. Today, we now claim such right by Congressional Edict.

Storms at Sea and the Monsoons of Winter, 1963

During this time, we experienced several dangerous typhoons and had to head out to open sea. These storms tossed and rocked this huge floating city to a point, I thought she would be torn apart. One could walk down the large hanger bay, where everything loose was tied down securely. One moment, the ship was presenting a pitch of 45 degrees to port, then a bit later, a 45 degree pitch to starboard. Sometimes, I had a scary sensation that the ship was going all the way over, she was rocking that much! It was difficult to walk, and it was here that I really learned what the term "getting one’s sea legs" was all about. I saw lots of guys who were sea sick, but this never seemed to bother me; in fact, I think I really enjoyed the "excitement" of being tossed around like a twig on a huge pond. To get an even better idea about life aboard a ship, tossed at sea in these huge storms, you need to read the account in our Oral Histories, about the Typhoon that nearly broke apart the USS COWPENS CVL-25.

Working in the Captain's Office during such storms was something to get use to. We had old mechanical typewriters during those days, and if you were typing something, you had to wait till the ship rolled down, so you could continue typing, as the carriage would not move up on a roll, with the heavy pitching and rolling of that huge ship.

At night, during these storms, one would have to lash themselves into their "racks" (bunks) so they wouldn't roll out of them and onto the deck. I can't remember ever being troubled or afraid of these storms. Maybe a thought would cross my mind occasionally with a big question mark, when you'd hear the ship complain as it went over a heavy sea. Our sleeping compartment was right next to one of the several expansion joints on ship. These joints were constructed to allow the ship this kind of movement, without coming apart. These joints made eerie squawks of complaint, as we heaved and rolled during heavy seas and storms, which could become very disconcerting, and annoying, to say the least especially to a young man who had just begun adult life.

Typhoon 'Gloria'

We experienced several of these huge typhoons during the cruise of 1963, one of which was called Gloria. This particular time, the Bridge, using the 1MC (shipwide public address system), told the crew, "All hands stand clear of all weather decks, due to high winds and heavy seas!". Instead of heeding the advice of the Bosun and the Officer of the Watch, I was found on the flight deck, under the wing of a spotted A1 Spad, watching the excitement. One moment, you would experience high seas that appeared maybe 100 feet above ship to starboard, and next, looking down a huge watery chasm, of perhaps another 100 feet, as the screws (propellers) at the rear of the ship, came out of the water for an instant, causing the entire ship to vibrate tremendously. Such experiences to me, were very exciting! It never occurred to me that I was in danger, or could have been washed overboard, nor did it occur to me that I might be causing a stir up on the Bridge. It didn't occur to me that I could have been put on report, hauled off to the brig, hollering, "Gangway, Prisoners" down those dark, metal passageways (remember?). Being up there on the Flight Deck was far to alluring and exciting for me to consider I might be breaking the rules. I was much too caught up in the action. Besides, I think I remember thinking that if the old girl was going down in this storm, I refused to be caught in an air tight compartment! I'd rather take my chances with the fishes! I subsequently realized the folley of such thinking - but I was young and dumb then.

But aside from the risks, I really have to say that I loved being up there. It was so exhilarating. Those who fly, or those who sky dive, etc., know the exhilaration that comes from a good adrenaline rush, and that's probably why you found me up there in Typhoon Gloria, for the rush was something awesome! You can read several other shipmate's comments about this storm, by clicking here.

After the storms abated, we found ourselves back at duty, doing what we had been called to do in the Gulf of Tonkin, along the coast of South Vietnam. It was here, that Night Air operation became very intense, when "Darken Ship" became the order of the day, every night. This was when it became even more exciting for me to be up on the Bridge, stationed behind the Captain on the many Bridge watches that I stood there. There is no danger that I can recall as intense as a pilot trying to do a 'controlled crash' on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, at night! It's hard enough to hit a small target on the sea during day light hours, but Night Air Operations has to be the supreme test of a man's courage: A test that would prove and develop the finest pilots in the Military: our Naval Aviators are the Finest and the Bravest of them all! There's no doubt in my mind whatsoever about that! Remember that, next time you watch "Top Gun".

WestPac '63 comes to a Close

Hancock returned Stateside in January, 1964, after a 7 month deployment in WestPac. This cruise gave me life long memories, which I continue to think about after all the passing years. They are mostly happy memories, which I enjoy. I am sure all past Hancock Sailors have the same feelings about their time aboard the Hancock, even though, today, she is but a memory, having been stricken from the Naval Ship List and scrapped in January 1976.

I often wonder who was blessed to receive her Bell. I envy this person. Her Bridge and Helm, I do believe is located at the the Smithsonian's  National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., or so I've been told.

My Last Days on Hancock

In March of 1964, before our involvement in Vietnam became intense, BuPers (Bureau of Naval Personnel) put out an Instruction to all personnel who had less than 90 days left of their enlistment, to be released from active duty which became known as a SecNav Cut. Why BuPers did that, continues to be an enigma to me to this day. They had to know the dangers of full involvement in Vietnam, and still they cut loose so many of us. But at the time, I didn't argue about it! Rather, having access to all the BuPers Naval Instructions, I found a loop hole in which I could be released and found a statement that said reservists don't have to drill after they have completed their required Two Years of Active duty. I used that intelligence to get me out of Active Duty.

In March of 1964, I had less than 90 days left of my Active Duty requirement, and on 27th of March 27, I walked down the After Brow of Hancock for the very last time. Doing so, I looked back at that Noble Lady, and said my fond farewell, to her and to all my shipmates. There, looking back, I felt a sadness in leaving her and my friends behind. I will never forget that scene. I often reflect upon it in my daily life. She was a Proud ship and one I have great pride in serving in. The following picture is the one I took as I walked down Pier #3, and looking back for the final time, I snapped this picture...

My last glimpse of a Proud Ship as we parted
for the last time, March 1964

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~ Epilog ~

When I first walked aboard the After Brow in 1962, I was only 19. Today, I am 60 years old, and often wish I had remained in the Navy for the career.. Funny how one’s feelings change as they grow older. I will always remember my Naval Service with Pride, fondness and joyful recollection. I know most of us Hancock Sailors do likewise, though at the time, most of us couldn't wait to be discharged.

More of my Oral History is located on the Oral History Site. Just look for my Link on the left side of the Browser Log-in area, then click on my name, or you can load the whole page here.

I give this Oral History to the world, as a token and Memorial to my service in the United States Navy, and to the memory and honor of a once, great ship, the USS Hancock (CVA-19). May her memory rest forever in the hearts and minds of those who proudly served in her. A ship is only a Great Ship when Great men sail in them.

Ken "Jake" Jaccard, YN3, USNR
Captain’s Yeoman,
A Proud Hancock Sailor, still
© September, 1997, All Rights Reserved

Addendum to my Memoirs: August 9, 1998

Recently I had received a letter via Email from someone who told me an incredible story about his experience aboard Hancock and how his story intertwined with my own above. I would hope that you'd take an additional few minutes of your precious time and read this letter from Dennis F. Milliken, and you will more than likely be as amazed and even excited as I was when I heard from him. Just keep in mind as you do read his letter about my experience on the Flight Deck during Typhoon Gloria.

I have since found Dennis' picture, standing in the same group picture with my good friend Steve Moncur, in my cruise book, Log-19 '63. Both were in Navigation Division.. It sure is a small world, and more keep coming up as the Internet grows as more people look to the past and their youth as Sailors in our Navy. Some of those letters are also located on my Oral History Pages


Notice to the Reader:  If you were a Hancock crew member during her 32 years with the Fleet, I would appreciate reading your own memoirs, and if you have good pictures of the ship during your time aboard, I would like copies of them. You can have them scanned and presented to me via the InterNet (Email attachment), or if you wish to send them via surface mail (Snail Mail), please send me an Email with some identification (e.g., Name, time aboard, your rank/rate, etc.) and I'll send you an address where you can send them. Use this Emailer.

* I am providing an area on this Site for your Memoirs in the Oral Histories. Your Pictures as a Public Free Service will be posted to the appropriate Gallery on this site.

Also, you are invited to join the USS Hancock CV/CVA-19 Association. You can go to the Association's Website by clicking the Banner, or request Membership information from the Membership Chairman, Tom Wimberly, a former XO on Hannah.

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